In the last few years, I slowly gained and somewhat rapidly lost a lot of weight (about 50 pounds). While extra weigh certainly did some damage to me physically, the psychic trauma of worrying about everything I was putting into (or not putting into) my body was the worst part of the whole thing. Food just…wasn’t fun. It became terror. I’m sure you’ve been there. In this book, the author mentions a survey in which the French associated with chocolate cake words like celebration , while Americans associated with that same cake words like guilt. I get that! Why is it like this? That’s what Pollan wrote this book about.
In Defense of Food isn’t a new book, and it’s not Michael Pollan’s only food-related book. Since he’s written it lots of podcasts, books, shows, diets, Instagram accounts, and sundry other food-related things have happened. In my mind, that’s made the wisdom of this book even more necessary. It cuts through the noise and tells you to just listen to your grandma, because whatever ideas she had about food are probably way more prudent than whatever we Americans have come up with since the 1970s. Pollan’s thesis: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. It’s not groundbreaking, but it seems like the more we obsess over diet and health, the less we understand the idea that we should just eat real food in moderation.
What is perhaps the hardest for Americans to grasp isn’t just what to eat, but how to eat it. Pollan explains the difference between feeding and eating. Americans often do something closer akin to feeding than eating. We eat more meals, more calories, more quickly, and with less time and money involved than healthier cultures do. He points out that while pretty much any food-based diet will work, one thing that healthy societies have in common is that they eat fewer meals, spend more time on food prep, and spend more time eating with other people.
Pollan recognizes that taking care of the food chain in a responsible way, prepping food, growing it, getting to know local growers and ranchers, etc. takes a lot of work and time. It’s hard for a lot of us, who would certainly eat healthy if we could afford a personal chef. He does make the valid point, though, that we either pay in time and money up front or we pay on the back end with health care. My hope is that enough people vote with their wallets to the point that real food becomes accessible by all Americans. In the mean time, Stic from Dead Prez wrote 7 Ways to Eat Good on a Hood Budget for the rest of us.